in western society, yoga has become synonymous with exercise.
The rise of hot yoga, power yoga, and the new Buti yoga has moved the practice further from its therapeutic roots and more into the realm of the gym. There’s nothing wrong with this – everyone has their own way of exercising and relieving stress. I’m just drawn to a more contemplative practice.
Practicing yoga with the intention of quieting your mind, calming your nervous system, and becoming more grounded is the basis of a contemplative yoga practice. I don’t sweat, and I’m not strengthening my core – I get my exercise elsewhere. I’m using the physical practice of the poses to give my mind something to focus on while at the same time bringing my awareness to my breath. I slow down. I notice a twinge in my right hip, and I modify the pose to avoid injury. I’m paying attention to how my left shoulder is less flexible than my right, and I adjust my posture to compensate. I observe how my muscles are protesting in a deep pose, and I back out a bit to find a sense of ease in the effort, rather than pushing through the pain.
As I practice, I feel my mind calming and my breath becoming more steady. As I lay in Savasana, integrating the practice I just completed, I am more aware of my body. As I sit for breathwork and meditation, my mind is able to focus and is less likely to jump from thought to thought.
…meditation in motion…
This style of practice is more of a meditation in motion. It uses movement as a method to capture the mind, to give it something to do while you dive a little deeper. You’re connecting to your body with every breath. Even when practicing in a group setting, you’re encouraged to close your eyes and feel the intention of the poses in your body. It’s less about chasing difficult poses and more about finding a sense of calm that you can carry into a seated meditation practice.
If you’ve been searching for a deeper connection in your yoga or a more mindful way of life, I invite you to try a gentle practice paired with meditation. Over time you might find your anxieties easing, your attachment to outside opinions lessening, and your sense of contentment expanding. Welcome to contemplative yoga.